Classes are wrapping up, and your college students may feel the pressure of final exams and presentations right now. In a few days, the semester will be finished, and professors will post grades. Most students will be heading home to celebrate the holidays. As a parent or family member, you might be anxious about the weeks ahead, when your emerging adult student is at home full time.

We asked students, staff, and parents/family members to share feedback about Winter Break. Whether you have a student who commutes to campus or who lives on/near campus, here are some tips to help you navigate the time ahead.

Fears of judgement – Students express concerns that their families will judge them for being different or changing since they became a college student. They wish that their families could embrace their new independence with encouraging words. “I’m so proud of you for thinking about these issues” or “it’s wonderful how you are getting involved,”  are meaningful sentiments to encourage your student’s transition into adulthood.

High school friends – College students share that while they are excited to see their high school friends, they worry that time together could be different than it was 6 months ago. Friend groups may shift, and students benefit in hearing from you that this type of transition is normal. They may need to find new common ground with their high school friends. Often, students tell us that they miss their college friends, too.  

Independence – After a semester (or more) of organizing their own schedules, students express concern for having to fit into the family dynamic again. “I don’t want to be part of the kids’ holiday pajama photo this year,” one junior told her advisor. In some cases, college students are caught between child and adult roles within their family. They are learning how to navigate their new role in the family as an emerging adult. In the case of the pajama photo, this student reached a compromise with her family and wore clothes in colors that coordinated with the younger kids, rather than the pajamas.  

Getting their grades – Grades will post to your student’s MyUNLV account over Winter Break. Celebrate that they’ve completed the Fall semester, and talk about how they will share their grades with you. In some cases, students may have had a challenging semester, and they may look to you for support and encouragement. Grades do not represent their ability to learn or whether they “belong” in college. Consider this to be a process of continued reflection on what they’ve done well and where they can improve. Remind them of the tutoring, office hours, and support services available on campus, and how seeking help early in the semester is an important step for academic success.

Time management is a critical factor in academic success, and your student may need to consider if they are devoting enough hours to reading, writing, and completing assignments outside of the classroom.

New Expectations – Having a conversation with your student about boundaries and expectations over Winter Break can be helpful. Consider topics like: curfew, chores, earning extra money, getting rest. Be sure to listen to your student when they express their ideas, and consider reaching a reasonable compromise on matters that are most important to you.

New Traditions – Families have shared that creating new traditions with their emerging adult students has been fun, such as taking a cooking class together, having a Family Board Game night, or watching a new TV show/movie together. Going one step further, a mom shared that she asked her student to teach her something new. Her Hospitality major showed her how to prepare a meal that they learned to make in class.

What if they want to transfer? “Tell me more,” is a great way to engage in the transfer conversation. Actively listen to their concerns. Sometimes students want to be closer to home, farther from home, or they hear about a friend’s experience and think the “grass is greener” at other schools. Ultimately, we care about your student’s overall happiness and academic success. We hope they choose to stay at UNLV, but we also understand that they may choose to go elsewhere. We encourage students to allow at least 2 semesters before they make decisions about transferring. In that second semester, students often feel more comfortable on campus, meet a professor whose class they love, or get involved in a club/activity where they find great friends.

Over Winter Break, most student services offices on campus are open, but may have limited hours, in order to allow staff time to be with their families. If your student has business to conduct, please encourage them to check the office’s website and call ahead/make an appointment before coming to campus.

We hope you have a wonderful holiday season and look forward to seeing your student in January!

Classes start on Tuesday, January 21, 2020.

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